The word, 'Okahandja' is derived from Otjiherero (a local tribal language) and means "The place where two rivers flow into each other to form one wide one."
Okahandja is rich in history and it revolves mostly around the Herero and Nama tribal people. Chiefs Tjamuaha and Kahitjene came to Okahandja in 1800 to establish themselves here. Chief Tjamuaha was the father of Chief Maherero, who was known to be the great leader of the Herero people.
In 1827 the first white person, Heinrich Schmelen a German pastor, came to Okahandja and called the place “SCHMELEN VERWACHTUNG”. The Rheinsh Mission sent two missionaries, Hugo Hahn and Heinrich Kleinschmidt to Okahandja in 1844 to do church work.
All went peacefully in Okahandja until the 23rd of August 1850, when the “BLOODBATH OF OKAHANDJA” took place between the Nama and Herero speaking people, today the site where this historic battle took place in known as “ Moordkoppie” and is situated behind the town's school next to the Windhoek - Karibib main road.
Jonker Afrikaner moved to Okahandja in 1854, where he later died. Chief Tjamuaha also died in the same year and advised his son, Maherero that he should stand up against the Nama-speaking people and overpower them, this was to be the beginning of a seven year war. True to his great leadership, Chief Maherero, conquered the Nama people and they in turn turned to the Germans for protection. On the 12th of January 1904, the Herero speaking people rebelled against the German occupation, but were chased off into the Kaiser kop area, East of Okahandja.
In 1870 the first school was established by Reinish missionaries. Many other businesses flourished in Okahandja, including Wecke & Voigts which was establish in 1892, unfortunately the original building burnt down and has been replaced with a smaller shop which is situated on the original site on the corner of Bahnhof stasse and Voortrekker road.
On 25 June 1894 Lentwein established a military station in Okahandja, this date was later regarded as the date on which Okahandja was officially established. Soon afterwards in 1895 the first postal services at Okahandja were established, camels were used to transport the mail. The first post office at Okahandja was established in 1896 and still stands in the main street.
The Augustineum School was reopened at Okahandja on 9 November 1905, in this very same school many of our Cabinet Ministers were educated.
The Tobacco Research Station was established between 1905 and 1907. Dr Fock became Okahandja's first mayor in 1906 and up to today a street is named after him, next to the Horse Riding Club where his original house still stands. Visitors to the Riding Club will be treated to some historical photos of the house, as well as of other homes and businesses in the early 1900's.
The first railway station, as well as a telephone connection, were established in 1909, bringing further development to the then small town. A public pool was established in 1932, but is unfortunately no longer used due to water restrictions.
The first big factory in Okahandja was the 'South West Creamery Ltd' and was established in 1948. 'African Meat Canners' was established in 1962 and the present Municipal buildings were constructed in 1952.
Due to the historical fact that two Herero Chiefs, Kahimunua and Nikodemus, were shot by the Germans in Gobabis and were buried at the Bantu Kirche, off Martin Nieb street, Okahandja, every year towards the end of August , on what is now called Maherero Day, thousand of Herero's come to Okahandja to pay tribute to their fallen heroes. They make a grand procession of brightly colored traditional dresses, military outfits and prancing horses. They proceed along a route which starts at the grave sites and moves on to a site on the other side of the main Windhoek road, where a great tribal banquet and celebration is held.
Okahandja holds a quaint atmosphere stooped in history and tradition. There are many historical sites to visit and a large variety of birds to view. Okahandja is crammed with many small businesses, these include: numerous supermarkets, three banks, a pharmacy, hardware stores, clothing stores, hairdressers, stationary shops, shoe shops, a photo developer, computer and internet shop, bakery and restaurant, but to mention a few. There is of course the larger industrial businesses too and five petrol stations, three of which have take away meals. Just a few kilometers from Okahandja is the Gross Barmen - Hot Water Springs, where a hot water spring inside swimming pool as well as a cooler outdoor swimming pool is available, there is also a restaurant, all this makes the popular tourist attraction is a worthwhile visit.
Visit Okahandja and enjoy the hospitality of a small country town.